The Top 7 Gutter Problems and How to Fix Them

Gutters are an understated element of the exterior. However, when this product malfunctions, it can cause a lot of headaches and hassle to homeowners. From pooling water on the ground to foundational damage, gutter troubles can lead you down an expensive and frustrating road.

The good news is that you can keep most gutter problems at bay by staying proactive. These are the most common problems that gutters cause and how they can be avoided:

Problem #1: Leaks

It can happen to anyone. When a gutter springs a leak, it can eventually turn into a major issue if the problem is ignored.

But what causes a leak in the gutter system, anyway?

There are several culprits.

Loose fasteners are one of the causes of leaky gutters. When a gutter is fastened to a roof with items such as hangers or screws, they can pop out of place over time. As water runs off the roof, it can flow over the rear edge of the gutter and the fascia boards.

Cracks and holes are two other common reasons behind gutter leaks. You’ll most commonly find both cracks and holes where fasteners pass through the metal.

Wondering how you can fix those leaky gutters before they cause extensive damage? Check out this quick video from Ask the Builder:

old, clogged gutter leaking water


Problem #2: Gutter Joint Separation

If the gutters are pulling apart from one another, this is a common problem that is typically caused by clogs and debris accumulation. The joint areas of the gutters are vulnerable to separation due to the weight of water and clogs in the system.

Keep in mind that caulk or glue typically isn’t strong enough to join two gutter pieces back together. You’ll need to use rivets for separated gutter sections. This is accomplished by drilling holes in overlapping edges in the sections and inserting 1/8th-inch rivets. This will secure the joints together securely.

Problem #3: Improper Slope

Many homeowners don’t give a second thought about gutter slope. The gutter slope is essential to the overall functioning of the system—and an incorrect slope can cause a myriad of problems.

The gutter slope, otherwise known as the pitch, is the amount the gutters slant downward to direct the path of water flow. If the gutter slope isn’t properly positioned, it will pool in the system and spill over the sides.

If the slope is slanted too sharply, the gutters can’t function at full capacity.

The general rule is to slope the gutters at 1/4th-inch per 10 feet of gutters.

Problem #4: Bad Downspout Draining

Not only do your gutters need sloped at a precise angle, but the downspouts need specific direction as well. If downspouts drain too close to the home, this can also result in pooling water around the home.

If you’re installing downspouts on your gutter system, be sure that they extend several feet from your home. Otherwise, they’ll dump water right into your basement or pool on the ground beside the foundation.

man drilling gutter downspout in place

Problem #5: Gardens Growing in Your Gutter

If gutters are filled with debris, seeds, and bird droppings, this combination can turn into plants growing in the gutter system. If your home has access to sunlight with plenty of rain, you’ll have your very own gutter garden with zero effort on your part.

While this is a somewhat comical visual, the truth is that vegetation in the gutters is no laughing matter. It can weigh down the gutters, causing the joints to separate or even clog the entire system.

The solution to this is easy in theory but time-consuming: keep your gutters clean.

Problem #6: Ice Dams

This is one of the most serious issues with gutters, specifically for homeowners in cold climates.

Ice dams are the result of snow melting off your roof and collecting in the gutter system. When the water hits the gutter, it freezes. The ice continues to compile and an ice dam is born.

Ice dams can weigh down the gutters and pull them away from your home. Not only does this leave you needing gutter repairs, you’ll need to take action to fix your roof and properly insulate your attic to avoid further problems.

Problem #7: Clogged Gutters

Aside from leaky gutters, this is perhaps one of the most common problems with gutters. Gutters can easily clog up with just about anything that blows around in the wind. You’ll commonly find insects, leaves, pine needles, and other plant life.

When water cannot flow through the gutters properly, it becomes clogged and can add excessive weight to the system. This can wreak havoc on the gutters and the roof, which can result in cracks, separation of joints, gardens growing in the gutter, and a number of other problems.

ice dam overflowing gutters

How to Avoid Gutter Troubles (for Good)

If the thought of water in your basement or damaged roofing makes you shudder, we have some good news. There is a way to keep gutter problems from costing you a fortunate: keep them clean.

This involves cleaning the gutters out a couple times per year—ideally spring and fall.

But what if you don’t have time to climb out on a ladder, fish out the debris by hand, and do it all over again in a few short months?

Gutter protection eliminates the need for routine gutter maintenance. A stainless steel mesh tops off the gutter and keeps major debris from entering the system. This helps homeowners enjoy clog-free gutters without the worry of ice dams or excessive debris causing leaks.

The better news is that gutter protection such as Bolt® fits seamlessly over any gutter system. It also comes with a no-clog warranty, giving the guarantee that your gutters will remain clear for years.

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